Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Observing Geostationary Satellites from Leiden and Arizona

While the focus was on LEO and HEO satellites earlier in October, I primarily targetted Geostationary satellites last week. Both from my own locality with my own equipment, as well as by means of a "remote" telescope in Arizona.

The two images below were taken from Leiden (the Netherlands) in the early evening of October 23, using my own equipment (Canon EOS 450D + Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 2.8/180mm).

They show the enigmatic, frequently re-locating PAN satellite (09-047A: see Dwayne Day's article here) and the SIGINT (eavesdropping) Mentor 4 (USA 202) satellite (09-001A), as well as a few commercial geostationary telecom objects: Hellas-sat 2 (03-020A), Thuraya 2 (03-026A) and Paksat 1R (11-042A).

click images to enlarge

As can be seen, PAN and Hellas-sat 2 are a very close pair now, so close that I am not actually 100% sure which one is which (the westernmost one or rightmost one is likely PAN). As can be seen in comparison to this post from May, it has relocated again, from 45.0 to 38.9 E - it did so in July, when I was on hollidays.

Somewhat earlier the same week, when the sky in Leiden was overcast, I took refuge by hiring a "remote" telescope again. This time not the 61-cm of SSON, but the 37-cm Cassegrain of Winer Observatory (MPC 857) in Sonoita, Arizona, USA. While a smaller instrument, this telescope has a larger FOV which is good if the satellite is a bit off from predictions, and allows te satellite to be captured on more than one image when a 3-image run is done. Also, it is cheaper to rent.

Targets were two "usual suspects": the enigmatic Prowler (90-097E: see story and links in my previous post here) on October 17 and 21 and the SBIRS-GEO 1 (11-019A) on October 21:

click images to enlarge

Note: because the telescope follows the stars, the satellites become trailed, unlike the images shot from Leiden which are from a stationary tripod (hence the stars trail, but the satellites not).

A few non-geostationary satellites were tracked the past two weeks as well. They include the STSS Demo 1 & 2 (09-052 A & B) and the USA 89 r/b (92-086C) on October 22, and the HEO ELINT & SBIRS platform USA 184 (06-027A) on October 15.

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